A Dash of Salt | The Illuminae Files

A good series is the fine wine of the book world. With each new entry, it ages boldly, elates the spirit, makes you crave more and more until you’re drunk on the quality of what you’ve read.

I would like to say that the Illuminae Files was that—a perfectly aged wine that hit where it needed to and left sweetness behind in its wake. Unfortunately, what I expected to be a bottle opened only once a century turned out to be something that I could get in a box on the bottom shelf of my local gas station any day of the week.

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Cancelathon Announcement

What is Cancelathon? Why should you care? Well, because if you don’t, you’re canceled.

Not really. We don’t do that here.

Last year, the online book community faced many waves of controversies. Whether it was outrage over ARCs, think pieces about how audiobooks aren’t really books, or the ever growing divide between the young adult and adult book communities, it felt like you couldn’t go a week or even a day without something blowing up on Twitter or ending up the subject of a Guardian article.

Many of these controversies held important points of discussion under the surface. What kind of content should we be willing to allow in young adult literature? What are the accessibility issues tied with the disregard for audiobooks? Who are young adult books really for when we have shit like DickSoapGate happening?

While important, I felt like these discussions were more often than not buried under over-simplifications and ignored for the ease of utilizing cancel culture to solve what are arguably nuanced issues within the book community and publishing industry.

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Hello 2020

It is officially 2020 and I have… been on a very long blogging hiatus.

I haven’t blogged since July. Oops.

As is customary at the beginning of a new year, however, I’m diving back in, reinvigorated, motivated, and with several small but exciting projects and goals. Sooo… Let’s get into it.

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The notion that all classic literature is out-of-touch stories written by old (or dead) straight, white men, is one I’ve heard with increasing frequency. It’s usually in conjunction with the assertion that modern literature is more diverse and inclusive than classic literature, and therefore classics are no longer necessary or valuable to read.

Admittedly, this was something that I used to believe.

I’ve talked before about my feeling on how prevalent this line of thinking is, and how detrimental I feel it is to the sheer number of diverse classics that actually exist. To condense: diverse classics exist. They are still important, and much of the problem in the lack of knowledge on diverse classics rests in how classics are taught and which ones are taught, not because they simply don’t exist.

I think this is important to understand, because when we erase the existence of diverse classics, of the stories written by and about marginalized people and people outside of the Western experience, we are (even if unintentionally) erasing those voices by asserting they were never speaking in the first place. It is as important as uplifting and reading diverse literature today.

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A Quiet Reflection on Girls of Paper and Fire | Belated #Pride Talk

I think one of the pleasures of reading YA as an adult is being able to see your younger self in a book and know that even if you didn’t get to experience that as a teen, there are teens reading those books now that get to have the experience of seeing themselves in mainstream literature.

Instead of disappearing, she makes me feel reappeared. Reimagined. Her touch shapes me, draws out the boldness that had been hiding in my core.

Girls of Paper and Fire was an apt book to read during Pride month. I’ve been out (on the internet, at least) since 2013. I’ve been out officially to my whole family for a year and some well-earned change. I’ve always, to an extent, understood my attraction to girls and boys, and as my understanding of gender and sexuality clicked into place and expanded, I came to realize that my attractions didn’t rely on specifics from either. I knew this, but before I came out I always just assumed my attractions were just the symptom of being a straight girl that was super comfortable with her sexuality. (Despite several same-sex encounters that should have told me otherwise, but I clung very hard to the idea of being ‘normal’ and ‘normal’ meant that I was straight, no matter how many girl friends I’d kissed or whose hands I liked holding.)

As a kid and teen, I didn’t read books with queer girls. This is not to say that no books with queer girls existed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s; I just wasn’t reading them. There’s no blame to place there; the people buying my books probably didn’t consider that I would be interested, and I was definitely not brave enough as a child to ask, let alone consider they were even a thing to begin with.

Reading about Lei and her budding attractions resonated with me in a way that I didn’t expect. I knew going into the book that this featured a sapphic romance, but it didn’t lessen the connection I made between Lei realizing her interest in Wren was more than admiration. I remember being that girl, the one that was enamored with the way other girls looked, the way they spoke, how fucking mesmerizing they were and how close I wanted to be to them. I remember when it settled in my core that I didn’t just admire other girls, that I didn’t just think other girls were merely pretty because hello I have eyes and girls are just pretty, but that I actually wanted to be with other girls in the same way I wanted to be with boys. I realized almost coldly that I was different and definitely not the ‘normal’ I had been told I should be, and that was terrifying.

She looks so astonishing it’s almost unreal, as though she’d slipped out of a painting perfectly formed, a thing of beauty, of art—of bright, vivid life in this cold, still place.

I don’t know if reading queer lit during this time would have made me feel braver, or would have made me come out earlier. I do think it would have made me see, sooner, that the way I felt about girls was normal, as normal as wanting boys, as normal as loving boys. I think it would have made me see it as acceptable. Natural. I can still feel the sick, overtly horrified anxiety when I sat down with my grandmother and told her not only did I like girls, but I was dating two (polyamory for the win.) I still occasionally feel the fear I did when my father outright asked me if I was dating a girl before I’d intended on coming out to him, because no matter how much you know your parents love you, being queer is enough for some for forget that you exist, to deny that they’ve raised you, to refuse to accept that you are the way that you are because it’s abnormal and wrong.

My father and I, and my grandmother and I, still have the strongest relationship I could ask for out of the people that did the most to raise me. A lot of young queer folk don’t have that; I’m still eternally thankful.

I don’t know if books like this would have made any of that easier. What I do know, is that teens in 2019 are reading this book and seeing themselves, and maybe it’s making things easier for them. Maybe it’s showing them that in the face of uncertainty, and before a world of people that tell them they’re wrong, that they see they’re worthy and deserving of acceptance and love, and that’s enough for this tired, quarter-century queer.